Cloud Formation Process Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shoshana Yarin

Shoshana has taught all grades with an emphasis in science and has a master's degree in science.

Did you ever look up at the clouds in the sky and wonder why they look that way or how they got there? There is actually a lot of science involved in the formation of a cloud. Read this lesson to learn more.

What Is a Cloud?

Have you ever stared at a cloud until you saw a shape, like a dragon? It's fun to imagine the clouds being different things, but what exactly is a cloud? The short answer is water. Clouds are made of water, but how can water be fluffy white and drift in the sky but also be stuck in oceans or lakes on the earth's surface? Isn't water too heavy to hang in the sky? That's where the science comes in.

What Do You See in the Clouds?
Clouds in the Sky

Perhaps you've learned about the water cycle. Water evaporates or turns from liquid to gas. It then forms clouds in the sky, rains down, and keeps on cycling around and around. However, there's a little more to it than just that.

For water to evaporate, there has to be enough heat to move the water particles fast enough so that the pressure pushing up is more than the air pressure pushing down. Pressure is a force against an object. Think of shaking a bucket of ping pong balls. If you shake it faster and faster, some of the balls will eventually pop out of the bucket.

Maybe you've noticed water boiling, bubbling as it turns into gas. That's because a lot of heat was added. Now, the water particles are moving so fast that many of them turn into gas. That would be like shaking the bucket of ping pong balls like crazy!

That means temperature and pressure are important for evaporation to happen. That's how water gets up into the sky, but how does it become a cloud?

Simple Water Cycle
Water Cycle

How Do Clouds Form?

Can you see water particles that have evaporated into the air? The answer here is both yes and no. Usually, we cannot see individual water particles in the air because they are too small and too far apart. However, we can see water particles in the air once many particles have condensed into a cloud.

Condensation means water turns from a gas back into a liquid. Water gas particles condense on other small particles like dust and form a tiny water or ice droplet. But how can a liquid (or solid, like ice) actually stay up in the sky and not fall down? More science!

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